The intense ten days of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival are over, and our Txiki-Txoko Kids’ Corner is just a memory now. The tent might even be gone by now, and the only remains will soon be a very large circle of dead grass and a few crayon and colored paper bits ground into the hard-baked soil. But my 2016 summer interns and I will remember the moments of joy, frustration, laughter, disappointment, and exhaustion that made it an area where we hope kids had fun and learned something about cultural traditions.
Our favorite times might have been the visits of the Basque and California participants who demonstrated their skills, danced, composed, sang, and taught the kids in a way only those with a deep knowledge of a culture can. But, we also did our share of teaching and passing on what we had learned about Basque culture.
One of these activities was Basque Number Bingo, which I generated from an online template that allows you to turn just about any string of related words or images into a bingo game for kids.
(Don’t you just love the internet? It was called Bingo Baker in case you want to try it!) All the interns had to learn to count to sixteen (there were four rows of four on the bingo cards) in order to be on the ready to conduct Basque Number Bingo with random kids if/when the occasion arose. (Usually this meant that some participant who was scheduled to come to us had cancelled for some reason and we had a big hole in our schedule and we had a bunch of kids to amuse with activities of our own devising.) The numbers were ingrained into our memories and probably will be forever – bat, bi, hiru, lau, bost, sei, zazpi, zortzi, bederatzi, hamar…
Thus the metaphor of the title – I felt as though I could always count on my interns throughout the whole event. Anne and Sara to keep the schedule updated and to help decide what to fill in with if we had a sudden hole. Leah to conduct “salt experiments.” Tyler at the ready to keep track of the myriad day camps in the colored t-shirts and pinafores. Lila to politely ask parents to fill out the family survey. Hannah to draw us a new interactive mural for the back wall. Aliyah to keep the interactive triptych stocked with post-its and markers. Our repeat volunteer/adopted intern Sam to do everything asked of her. And a hundred other things they did from rearranging the chairs and tables for new activities to teaching whale origami, to soothing some little kid who banged a knee while playing “Duck, Duck Lamia” or “San Fermin Day sponge tag.”
I have had many great groups of interns over the years – you know who you are, and thanks to those of you who came to visit during this year’s Festival – but each year’s bunch are special. I may have been working on the Festival for an amazing 30 years (gulp!) but this will probably be the only year they participate before they go on to other exciting endeavors, and they will hopefully always remember it as a hectic, sweaty, but rewarding experience like no other. Thanks for the memories, gals!